A biennial is a large international art exhibition held every two years

1 of 3
  • Gilbert & George, 'Fates' 2005
    Gilbert & George
    Fates 2005
    Mixed media
    image: 4260 x 7600 mm
    Purchased with assistance from Tate Members 2006© Gilbert and George
  • Gary Hume, 'Water Painting' 1999
    Gary Hume
    Water Painting 1999
    Household paint on aluminium panel
    support: 3050 x 2440 x 21 mm
    Presented by the Friends of the Tate Gallery 2000© Gary Hume
  • English Magic by Jeremy Deller inside the British Pavillion at the Venice Biennale 2013
    English Magic by Jeremy Deller inside the British Pavillion at the Venice Biennale 2013

The first exhibition of this type was the Venice Biennale held in 1895, situated in the Giardini, a public park in Venice. The Giardini now houses thirty permanent national pavilions and many smaller temporary structures. The early years of the Venice Biennale were dominated by European art, but the exhibition now includes contributions from countries in South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The late twentieth century saw a dramatic increase in biennials and by 2007 there were some fifty across the world, including the Beijing Biennial, the Liverpool Biennial, the Prague Biennale, the São Paulo Bienal and the Sharjah Biennial in The Gulf.

This explosion of large-scale international art exhibitions mirrors the financial boom in international art buying.